Oh! Look at This!!

As Lillyann and I visited the shops in town today, she tickled me and those we visited with her enthusiasm. She loved everything and kept saying, “Oh! Look at this!!” A very sweet lady gave her a beautiful little frog as she admired a display in one store. I told Lillyann to pick out a little gift for Mylah, and I would buy it for her. She picked a cute little ladybug because Mylah is crazy about them. The lady said she wanted Lillyann to have it to give to her sister.. Lillyann and I were touched by her love, and she just couldn’t stop talking about it on the way home. Mylah squealed with delight when she saw the sweet little gift.

I could hear God saying, “Oh! Look at this!” as the kind woman went out of her way to share Lillyann’s joy. She extended love and told Lillyann that she was a big sister too. The look on Lillyann’s face when we got into the car was priceless. The little gift was literally priceless, and that was what made it so very special. I saw God in a sweet and powerful way today. I’m glad it was the last shop we visited because the glow of the woman’s lovingkindness followed us home and grew as we told Mere and mommy all about the kind lady in the city. I’m still smiling:)

God’s lessons this week have been simple ones about walking and witnessing in His kingdom. He doesn’t need fancy programs or filled agendas; He just wants us to be willing to give a frog away occasionally:)

Going to the City!!

Lillyann ran ahead of Mylah this morning, and she was out of breath and talking a mile a minute when she arrived in my room. Luckily, I was on my second cup of coffee and fully awake so I could enjoy her excitement. When mommy and Mylah came in, Lillyann told mommy that Mylah was going to Mere’s, and she was going to the city!! If you aren’t familiar with Bryson City, you may not appreciate her remark. Our little town is beautiful, but it is very tiny. Gina and I smiled and enjoyed the joy:) I love the perspective children bring to life, and I love the effect the girls have had on me over the past year as I’ve had the privilege of keeping them while mommy was in school. I’ve learned so very much as I’ve gotten closer to them.

Witness is about loving, and children love as God desires. They are wonderful witnesses. Christ loves that about children and asks us to be more like them. They love simply and find joy in life. I pray my witness will be as enthusiastic as Lillyann’s was this morning as she talked about going to the city. She made me want to go to, and that’s what witness is all about. Matthew 19:14 says it simply and beautifully,

But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” NASB

The world says to grow up, be serious, stop daydreaming, and straighten up! Jesus said the kingdom is more like children than adults. I pray I will see life through the same lens Lillyann sees it now, and I hope she never stops getting excited about going to the city. 

As I look at our beautiful town, I see why Lillyann is so excited.  Folks come from all over the world to visit Bryson City, NC. I am very blessed to live and love here:)

Going to the City

Spinning in God’s Kingdom

God placed the image of a spinning top in my path this morning to help me understand the importance of movement when finding the balance He desires. The physics behind a spinning top offers a powerful lesson in walking in God’s kingdom. According to eHow, the potential energy within the top is released, changing to kinetic energy, the energy of movement and motion.” Allowing God to change my potential energy into movement and motion is what walking in His kingdom is all about. The axis upon which my heart must spin is the center of the cross where God’s love came into His world. The Holy Spirit puts my heart into motion.The explanation continues with, “The spinning top rotates around an unseen principal axis. If the top were perfect in every way — perfectly balanced and weighted — and the floor was perfectly level as well, the top would rotate pretty much indefinitely. But most tops aren’t perfect and will begin to lose their momentum.

Humans are imperfect; so I wobble and lose my momentum as I walk in God’s kingdom. Wobbling is part of walking and reminds me that I am a human and need God every step of the way. There is nothing more fascinating than a spinning top, and children love spinning and watching tops as much today as they always have. Jesus is perfect and so is heaven, and His love spins eternally and stands as a perfect example of what God’s love does to the human walk. I can never be perfect, but when I am with Him in heaven, I will be able to join in celebrating God’s love in a way that I believe is similar to that perfect spinning top. Little Mylah turns around in circles when she’s dancing or happy, and I thought of her spinning this morning. She wobbles and usually falls to the floor. I do the same as I attempt to praise God. There’s nothing I love more than watching her little dance of joy, and I know God feels the same way about my attempts to love and praise Him:)

When a top is perfectly balanced, it appears to be standing still. God’s love gave Jesus the perfect peace He needed to be still in a world spinning out of control. Christ’s love for all in this world projects from the beautiful center of His being and out into His Father’s world. I must allow His love to project from my own heart in all directions if I am to walk in His kingdom.

Being in the midst of a crowd can be unnerving, and I was a little unnerved as I found myself in the midst of a large crowd of screaming fans at a rock concert on Saturday evening. It was a good lesson in closeness:) The lead singer broke the tension a bit when he asked everyone to look to the right and then to the left. He then asked that we smile, shake hands, or give a high five to the folks all around us. That reminded me that those invading my space were individuals. That’s important to remember in a crowd, especially when the crowd begins to feel like a mob:)

Extending love in all directions is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Love adds dimension, and the Holy Spirit takes the potential love in my heart and makes it kinetic. Love is meant for motion just as tops are meant for spinning. When I allow God’s Holy Spirit to spin my heart and put me down where He wants me, the movement is much better than my wobbly attempts to spin on my own. Sometimes, I let the wobbling get me down. I don’t want to get back up, but God gently reminds me that I need His love to go on.

When I look at a beautiful top, I see a cross with love extending from its center in all directions. I can envision God putting His loving hand on my heart and giving it a spin knowing that I’m not perfect and neither is His world. He knows, and I’m learning, that His Spirit will always be there to help me love in His kingdom.

Tops

Following the Leader??

As the girls were going upstairs this morning, I heard Lillyann telling Mylah, “That’s right little unicorn; follow the leader.” Lillyann was, of course, the leader. God used the girls to remind me that I wasn’t truly following Jesus, only inviting Him to come along with me. I have the tendency to imagine Jesus right behind me and try to behave accordingly. It’s exactly what Lillyann loves for all of us to do:) I am thankful God has a sense of humor and loves me even more than I love Lillyann. He patiently allows me to show Him all I’m doing and learning. I am eternally grateful that He smiles, encourages, and waits for me to truly understand what following entails. If I am to walk in His kingdom, I have to decide to truly follow Jesus instead of asking Him to join me on my journey.

I take Jesus with me wherever I go, and I thought I was doing the right thing. My intentions have been very good, but the path was not leading to God’s kingdom just improving my path. Good intentions still pave the road to a very different place, and I had a very sobering reminder of that from God’s Word this morning.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 NASB

I was humbled by those powerful words and the ones which follow in verses 21-23.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you” NASB

Following Jesus isn’t easy, and I pray I will remember that as I step aside and allow Jesus to lead the way. I listen and obey to the point of seeing the direction, and then I take off like Forrest Gump. It’s only when I find myself past the end zone that I turn around and remember that Jesus should be the one out in front. Again, I’m thankful for His patience and His grace. His love goes without saying because if it weren’t for it, I would be completely lost and alone.

Following the leader was never my favorite game when the kids in my neighborhood got together. I was one of the younger ones, so I wasn’t the leader often. When I was, I was too busy wondering what those behind me were doing to do a good job of leading. Following Jesus is much more difficult than simply inviting Him to walk along. He made that clear to me this week. I have to choose whether or not to hang on to my wants or let go and let Him worry about my needs. I allowed our paths to go in different directions once before in my life, and I do not want to ever be without Him again.

Holiness simply means mature, ripe, and ready. I am closer to understanding just what that means after the vivid lessons He had for me this week. Lillyann’s sweet order to Mylah was a call for me, as well. Jesus is also saying to me, “That’s right! Now, follow the leader,” and His voice is just as sweet and reassuring as Lillyann’s was this morning as she bid little Mylah to do the same:)

Monkeying Around =]

When I came home from small group last night, the kids were coming downstairs. Tyler was underneath the stairs swinging from one of the steps and laughing. Lillyann’s reaction was to hurry down and do the same. I joined in the joy and told them I didn’t realize we had monkey bars in the house!! Mylah giggled and wanted to try. She couldn’t reach the step she wanted, so I pointed to a lower step and told her to watch her head. She did bump her head as she imitated daddy and La La, but she was still laughing and pointing to her head because she was part of the action. Walking in God’s kingdom is about being part of God’s plan, and like little Mylah, I am happy to be part of something I don’t have to understand or get right to enjoy. I know love when I feel it, and God’s kingdom is all about love:)

Tyler looked at me and said, “If we buy this house, we could put a chin bar right here:)” Mommy told us that only children would be chinning on the stairway:) Sometimes a little monkeying around is necessary; it keeps me from falling into the sin of taking myself too seriously. Jesus bids me to be as a child when I enter His kingdom. That means following, trusting, and being filled with wonder. I wondered last night why I hadn’t thought of swinging on those stairs, and I’m sure Lillyann was thinking the same thing! It was wonderful to see my son swinging from them, and even better to watch Lillyann grab on and enjoy:) Jesus says it best in Matthew 19:14

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” NASB 

It’s a beautiful blessing to share the journey with others, but it is also humbling to remember that there are little monkeys watching what I do. I pray I will love as God desires so Lillyann and Mylah will see Christ’s precious love in me and want the same. I pray the same for all those in my path. Walking in God’s kingdom is a journey filled with love, hope, peace, and joy. There are sweet moments of joy, and there are times of sorrow. Knowing I am not alone makes the joy sweeter and the sorrow bearable. Sharing love is what the journey is all about. The way I share it is my witness to God’s world. May I glorify Him as I share the love He has so bountifully given me!!

You Aren’t Going to Keep That, Are You??

I never tire of watching Lillyann and Mylah interact. God showed me last night that I often share with Him the same way they share with one another. They are still learning, and so am I, the difference between giving away and lending. Mylah and I were watching “The Jungle Book” while Lillyann visited with Mere. She would hold out a little Cheerio for me and then quickly put it in her mouth if I tried to eat it. It’s a little game to her, but it’s a little game that taught an important lesson. Sometimes, if I’m quick enough, I can get that little Cheerio before she has time to snatch it back. She doesn’t like it at all when I do that and sometimes gets upset. I’m the same way with God.

When I give something to God, I find myself saying, “You aren’t going to keep that, are you?” I’m ashamed to say that I’ve let go as little Mylah and reacted with the same frustration when He does keep it. Giving things to God involves truly letting go. Mylah will offer and offer and even push a Cheerio in my mouth if I shake my head and say, “No thank you!” She wants me to want it so she can snatch it away, put it in her own mouth, and then giggle. It’s all part of her game, and I am guilty of sharing with God in the same manner.

I want to give all to God, but I don’t want Him to keep it. It’s easy to give away what I don’t want or need but harder when it’s something I want. God often gives back what I have given Him, but it is not the same. He gives my space and stuff a new dimension and does the same for me. His ways are higher than I can imagine, and I’m slowly learning to truly let go and not push my Cheerios into God’s mouth when He isn’t playing the way I want to play:)

Lillyann came home last night loaded down with goodies from her day with Mere, and she handed Mylah some things she had gotten for her. When Mylah wanted Lillyann’s precious flashlight, the atmosphere took a turn for the worse. Mere and I had to convince Lillyann that Mylah was just going to play with it for a little while. She relaxed a bit, but I could tell that she wanted to make sure she was going to get it back. Again, I saw myself in her trepidation. All worked out well when I put the little light back where it stays, and we settled in to finish the movie and “share” Cheerios:)

If God offered me the opportunity to go back to Ash Wednesday, I wouldn’t change a thing. The space and stuff I’ve given Him have made room in my heart for what He has in mind. The lessons have been hard ones, and the hurt is still healing. Learning to trust Him and walk in His kingdom in a way that glorifies Him has been, is, and will continue to be, worth the hurt that came, comes, and will always come when I share as He desires.

 

I Want Somebody to Carry Me

This morning as the girls were heading upstairs, Lillyann stopped halfway and said, “I want somebody to carry me.” She didn’t scream or fuss; she just wanted somebody to pick her up. I am the same way myself at times and could sympathize with her. Mommy encouraged her to come on up; I did the same and went down to my room. She waited for a little while, but went on up when she heard the sounds of mommy fixing breakfast and Mylah calling, “La La?” Getting stuck in the middle is not the same as finding the center:) Lillyann forgot all about being stuck when she heard the love up above. God’s sweet voice has the same effect upon me when I find myself in between and wanting Him to carry me.

The middle child knows all too well what being stuck in the middle means, and the middle-school student knows it even more clearly. As a middle child who taught middle school for thirty-three years, it is a feeling that I have to make sure doesn’t define me. The center represents balance, but the middle means in between. They are so alike, but so very different!! Middle children, myself included, have the tendency to mediate. Older and younger children might call it meddling:)

Like Lillyann on the stairs this morning, I want to be carried when I find myself stuck in between where I’ve been and where I’m going. Walking in God’s kingdom is a spiraling upward process, and there are times when I need a nudge. There are other times when fear forces me to stop and cry out. Christ will carry me when I cannot go on alone. If Lillyann had truly needed to be carried, both Gina and I would have come running; but we both know better than to help when she needs to go on her own. Christ knows the same about me. If we are carried all the time, we would lose the ability to walk at all. Good intentions often cripple those we think we are helping. God knows I must find His way before I can move nearer to Him and to those in my path. He provides the Holy Spirit and Christ’s precious love as guides on my journey and gives me just what I need just when I need it. I love that about Him.

Lillyann scooted quickly up the steps this morning when we left her alone, and the sweet sounds of playing together soon filled my heart. There’s nothing I enjoy more! God feels the same way when He sees His children moving forward and finding fellowship with one another. The sound of love is the sweetest sound in this world, and I know it is just a tiny taste of the love I’ll hear in heaven. As those sounds upstairs spurred Lillyann upward, so do the sounds of heaven spur me on when I find myself stuck. Walking in God’s kingdom is about learning, and the most powerful lessons are those I learn when stuck on the stairs:)

An Out of Body Experience

Walking in God’s kingdom is an out of body experience that requires the faith to go when I do not see and do what I do not understand. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 says it powerfully.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” NASB

My body gets me into trouble when I get too comfortable in it. These verses and the ones that follow were at the heart of the message at Jack Lyday’s funeral yesterday. He was a believer with tremendous faith. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 addresses such faith.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”NASB

I lose heart if I focus upon this temporary vessel, but I can experience beautiful glory beyond all comparison if I gaze at my beautiful Savior and remember that it’s His temple and not my own. Walking in God’s kingdom requires faith, and I cannot get out of this body without it. I found yesterday that I couldn’t think of Jack without grinning, and I know he would appreciate that. In fact, I could see his amazing smile as I heard God’s sweet Word read. Pastor John reminded me that Jack told everyone he met that he was a believer, and he always said it with a glorious grin. He walked his life in God’s kingdom and trusted God with powerful faith that others saw clearly. If I do the same, I can smile as Jack always did, especially when I talk about my beloved Savior.

Being absent from the body isn’t easy, and I slip back into it often. Like a favorite shirt or pair of shoes, it bids me to relax and stop this out of body nonsense. My body isn’t the only one who feels more comfortable when I stay in it. Some insist that I stop my folly and get back where I belong! Staying in the body is easy and makes everyone comfortable. Well, everyone but God, and He’s the only one I want to please. I love being present with Him. God’s presence trumps any pleasure or escape I get from staying in this body. I think I’ll just keep on listening to Him and walk in His kingdom with the grin full of the glory God’s presence gives me now and will give me even more when I am one with Him in heaven. I know God and Dot had a glory-filled grin when Jack joined them. I look forward to seeing God’s grin myself one day. Until then, I plan to stay out of this body as much as possible and focus upon pleasing God and God alone.

Surrendered and Surrounded:)

Before heading to dinner last night, I decided to take some photos since it was a special occasion. I told the girls I wanted to hold them one at a time for a picture with Gigi. Of course, they both wanted up at the same time. Tyler and Gina can handle both at once, but I’m not quite there. I was holding Lillyann, and little Mylah wanted in on the action too. I told Gina to hand her to me quickly and not get very far away as Tyler took the picture. The girls giggled, and I strained; but their sweet hugs gave me strength. Love enables me to do what I don’t believe possible:) God is love, and He makes all things possible. The love I give and receive changes me in powerful ways. Walking in God’s kingdom is walking in love, and I’m finding that allows me to do the impossible.

Philippians 4:13 is a favorite verse of mine, and God placed it in my path this morning as I thought of how I’ve changed over the past two months. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) I refer to that verse when I fear I won’t be able to what God is asking me to do, but I am beginning to see it as a call to accept the love and help He offers through Christ and the Holy Spirit. God’s love manifests through His Son and His Spirit, and I have access to its power when I accept the love He offers and let Him surround me. Love is the key to walking in God’s kingdom, and His love allows me to walk without having to understand, to trust without having doubts, and to find the sweet joy that comes from surrendering completely to His will.

When I surrender to His will, His love surrounds me in the most beautiful way. I love it when Lilly and Mylah both hug me at the same time. They are a big part of the beautiful love God has placed in my life as I walk in His kingdom and love as He desires. It’s been a tough time of transition for me as I’ve come out of my comfort zone, let go of my desires, and embraced His will; but the joy I’ve found has been worth it. God won’t surround me with His love until I surrender and trust Him completely. God used the girls as a sweet reminder that all things are possible when I allow Christ’s precious love to surround me. It a simply magical feeling, and I love every moment:)

Surrounded

Love Shared is Love Squared:)

Thirty-three years ago today, my son Tyler was born. My students at Alarka Elementary were giving me a baby shower when I realized he was on his way. Tyler wasn’t due for another two weeks, but he and God had different plans. Emily Harris was the school nurse, and she told me that I was, in fact, in labor. Shirley Loftis began timing my contractions and whispering ‘Jesus’ after each one:) I continued to party with my students and ignored the worried looks from my colleagues.

I learned an important lesson in cockiness that day as I told those around me that the pains were barely noticeable. I was sure it was going to be an easy delivery. Around ten o’clock, Mrs. Harris was told me that I needed to get to the hospital. Shirley told me the contractions were coming every five minutes, so I went to tell Mr. White that I needed to leave. He agreed wholeheartedly and urged me to leave immediately. Lawana Almond took me to my doctor’s office, and the wait began.

Dr. Han was calm and said he wanted to keep me at his office as long as possible. At noon, my water broke, so we all went to the hospital. My contractions were one minute apart and very intense. I knew it would be over soon and just kept on breathing. Billy and I had gone through Lamaze classes, so we knew the drill and prepared to get this baby into the world. He told me when the contractions were coming, and I did the breathing exercises as prescribed. I also learned a powerful lesson in knowing what to do and actually doing it which always applies beautifully to walking in God’s kingdom:)

Tyler was a big, strong baby who weighed an ounce shy of nine pounds. He was anxious to get here, so he pushed up and over the birth canal. His was out of position and struggled to no avail to get free. Dr. Han reached in and repositioned him just as God repositions me when I get ahead of myself:) At eight o’clock, Dr. Han convinced me to have an epidural for the pain, and at 10:10 pm on Friday, April 18, 1980, Tyler Proctor joined my journey. He was screaming loudly but stopped immediately when he heard my voice. It was humbling to watch his little eyes try to focus as he looked toward me, and I think of that moment when I know God is there but have trouble seeing Him. I am reassured by His voice and His presence as Tyler was with mine. Dr. Han placed Tyler on my stomach, and he stared and listened intently. Again, I think of God when I recall that moment because it is when I began to understand His love for me. I was taking part in God’s creation, and He used my precious son to take love to a new level.

I thank God every day for my sweet son and the girls he loves so dearly. I share my journey with his daughters in mind, so it’s important to let them know how their daddy came into this world. Last night, as I watched him and Gina playing and squealing with the little girls they both adore, my heart just melted. Mama told me once there was nothing better than a grandchild. I told her there was no way I could love anyone more than Tyler, but she grinned and told me to just wait. She was right, as usual, and I love Lillyann and Mylah more than I thought possible. My love for Tyler grows as I watch him love his beautiful girls and watch them love him right back. Gina is a daughter to me; I love her dearly and refer to her as my daughter-in-love. They surround me with love and have taught me that love shared is love squared:)

Love Squared